The Housing Act

Originally published January 2005

The Housing Act 2004 received royal assent on 18 November 2004 and its provisions will be brought into force in stages by commencement orders. The Act contains reforms which aim to create a fairer housing market for those who own, rent or let residential property. The reforms will make substantial changes to the way in which residential property is regulated in the private and public sectors.

The Housing Minister, Keith Hill, has said that "better use will be made of the existing housing stock, there will be better protection for vulnerable tenants and new and innovative schemes to deliver quality social housing at an acceptable cost. As well, homebuyers and sellers will be able to look forward to long overdue reforms which will take some of the misery and frustration out of moving home."

A Summary of the Changes

Sellers of properties, or their estate agents, will be required to provide and pay for information concerning the sale of residential property. The information, including a home condition report, will be contained in home information packs. The packs will come into force from January 2007, after a six-month voluntary trial period.

There is provision to compel estate agents to belong to a redress scheme for buyers and sellers and for an ombudsman scheme for estate agents.

Landlords who let property to assured shorthold tenants and who require a deposit will be required to be a member of an approved insurance scheme or a custodial scheme. A landlord who is not a member of an appropriate scheme will not be able to use the notice-only ground of a shorthold tenancy to gain possession until such time as they are a member.

The existing housing fitness standard contained in the Housing Act 1985 will be replaced by the Housing Health and Safety Rating System. This will help local authorities to target properties in poor condition, which often house vulnerable people. Detailed regulations have yet to be made, but will set out how inspections are to be conducted. The System comprises 29 categories of hazard, each having a rating being a numerical score falling into ten bands.

There will be a new range of enforcement procedures available to local authorities to improve housing standards and tackle poor housing conditions. Local authorities will be able to apply for empty dwelling management orders to bring long-term empty properties, i.e. those which have been unoccupied for at least six months, back into...

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